Mindfulness for Beginners: Week #1

Meditation ChairWhat’s the purpose of living if you always want to be somewhere else, or have something else, or be with someone else?

Would you like to reclaim the present?  The now?  This very moment?

This week I’ve been test driving mindfulness via the audio version of this book:  Mindfulness for Beginners by Jon Kabat-Zinn, Professor of Medicine Emeritus and founding director of the Stress Reduction Clinic and the Center for Mindfulness in Medicine, Health Care, and Society at the University of Massachusetts Medical School.

Now apparently, according to the advice in the book, I shouldn’t talk about meditating or tell anyone I’m doing it for 5 to 10 years.  I’ll be wasting time on PR for meditation that it doesn’t need and it’s time that would be better spent with my butt parked in my meditation chair practicing meditation instead!

Ah well – rules are always there to be broken.

So what is mindfulness?

It seems that mindfulness is actually a way of being and a way of living.  It’s not just a good idea or a great philosophy.

If you need a definition then mindfulness requires you to pay attention, on purpose, in the present moment, non-judgmentally, as if your life depended on it.

Mindfulness is what comes out of paying attention, on purpose…  It’s a systematic, disciplined practice of doing nothing.  It’s applicable for ‘anyone that is alive’.

Mindfulness practice is the process of getting your life back.  It’s about stabilizing and calibrating the mind via the practice of meditation.

It’s about attention, awareness, discernment, clear seeing and wisdom based on a foundation of a caring quality and self-compassion…  A core principle of mindfulness is cultivating a spirit of do no harm – not only to others, but also to yourself.

It’s about becoming aware that all those worries, doubts, obsessions and other thoughts that swirl around in your head … are just ‘thinking’.  We are so good at thinking, but we tend to regard our thoughts and opinions as facts.  Are they?

Mindfulness is NOT about suppressing your thinking.  Mindfulness IS about not getting caught in your thinking and therefore freeing that great instrument called your mind.

Can you question who you are and be comfortable not knowing?  Think about it.  We’re conditioned to fear not knowing in case we look like an idiot or show weakness …

Mindfulness meditation is about letting the ‘doing’ (or you could say the analytical thinking) come out of the ‘being’ so you can access other dimensions of ‘being’.  Let go … let be …

When you practice mindfulness you find out just how mindless we can be.  Consider this.  Life is made up of moments.  You miss a huge number of those moments by racing through life on autopilot.  The more you miss, the faster the trip….  You’re already in the greatest moment of your life – wake up – realize you only have greatest moments to live.

The meditative aspects of mindfulness practice has been developed from Buddhist practices.  From a Buddhist perspective there are three poisons:  greed, hatred (incl. anger, rage and fear) and delusion (the opposite of wisdom).

Those poisons lead us to the 7 attitudinal foundations of mindfulness:

  1. Non-judging: become an impartial witness.
  2. Patience: let things unfold in their own time.
  3. Beginner’s mind: cultivate a mind that see things fresh, time after time – as if for the first time.
  4. Trust: trust yourself, honour your feelings, acknowledge your intuition.
  5. Non-striving: stop striving for tomorrow, more money, that new man – pay attention to right now.
  6. Acceptance: see things as they are now, accept, move on.
  7. Letting go: let things be – don’t cling on – watch – accept.

I’m sure I’ll be coming back to each of those to discuss what each means at a later date.  Right now I’m still digesting them.

The First Meditation Test Drive

This audio book is split in to two parts.  The first is about mindfulness – why would you be interested in it, what is it, how can you practice it and of course what if you use it.  The second half is about an hour and a quarter of guided meditations, interspersed with soft music and zen bell ringing.

One of the pieces of advice I’ve come across in the past couple of weeks is that to actually meditate you don’t have to sit cross-legged on the floor.  You can choose another more comfortable spot if you wish.  So I chose the chair in the picture, that sits in my newly revamped office beside a lovely bay window looking out on the garden.

So there I parked with my earphones plugged in….

The first 15 minutes was a fascinating tour of a raisin – focusing on how it looks, smells, feels, whether it makes any noise and then of course how it tastes and the sensations in your mouth.  I know it sounds a bit unusual.  It’s an exercise to practice placing all your attention on one thing – in this case a raisin.  The thing you focus your awareness on isn’t important – what is important is that you focus your awareness.

Can I tell you what else is on the track?  Nope, I can’t.  Jon Kabat-Zinn’s voice is super smooth, hypnotic, seductive, melodic…

I slept so beautifully through the rest.  The only part I was aware of occasionally was the ringing of those little zen bells.

It was a wonderful, relaxing hour-long nap.

So I tried again.

And again.

And again.

And decided I’d have to sit crossed legged on the floor just to ensure I was uncomfortable enough to stay awake!

Finally I managed to get through the 75 minutes – with a headache by the end of it just from the sheer effort of forcing myself to stay awake.  The guided mediation moved my focus/awareness from the raisin, to my breathing, extending my awareness to encompass the body, taking in the sounds around me and the spaces between them, on to thinking and finally bringing it all together in a mindful way…

Each time my mind wandered off (which was very frequently), and I became aware it wandered off, then I was asked to gently bring it back.  Without scolding myself in any way that it had wandered off.  Which is good as I’d have been doing that a lot.

So how was the experience?

It was interesting.  My brain felt like it had had the best relaxing massage.  Things no longer seemed important enough to get angry or anxious about.  It was as if life had been put in perspective.  Though the 75 minutes did seem long, so I look forward to testing out something a little shorter next week….  But then again perhaps I wasn’t meant to listen to it all in one go!

I’ll finish today with one final quote from this great book:

It’s the challenge of a lifetime to grow in to who you actually are …

I’m ready for the challenge.


4 responses to “Mindfulness for Beginners: Week #1

  1. Pingback: If Mindfulness Means Chocolate I’m In: Week #2 | NLP THIRTEEN

  2. Pingback: Preparing for Mindfulness: Week #2 and a Half | NLP THIRTEEN

  3. Pingback: Mindfulness techniques for children and teenagers | psychologymum

  4. Pingback: Is Life Trickling Through Your Fingers? The ‘Real’ Week #1 | GATEHOUSE THIRTEEN

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